— Posts About COBRA

House Passes Unemployment Extension Without Cobra Benefits; Senate Yet to Act

On May 28, 2010, the House passed a watered-down jobs bill. It extends the extra unemployment benefits program for another six months, though those benefits have now expired as of the end of May. Very significantly, the House bill did not include an extension of the expanded COBRA program for health insurance.

The Senate has yet to act.  Because the unemployment benefits have expired, unemployed workers are losing benefits right now, and will cotninue to until the Senate passes a matching bill.  The N&O has this article on effects to workers in North Carolina.  It is imperitive that the Senate quickly pass a bill to extend the unemployment benefits program, and include an extension of COBRA benefits.  With the unemployment rate still near 11% in North Carolina, unemployed and uninsured workers cannot afford more delay from Congress.

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President Signs Bill to Extend Unemployment Benefits

After Democrats were once again able to overcome Republican opposition that was holding up unemployment benefits for millions of workers in difficulty, Congress passed an extension of emergency unemployment benefits, and President Obama signed it into law on April 15.  From the New York Times: “The measure, which would continue added unemployment benefits and other expired federal programs [such as the COBRA subsidy program] through May, will restore aid to thousands of Americans who had exhausted their benefits or whose eligibility was expiring. The legislation means that those out of work can receive up to 99 weeks of unemployment pay in some states. It will restore benefits to anyone who may have lost pay during a two-week interruption in the program.”

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Helpful Information on COBRA and Health Care Reform

The New York Times has a very useful article on COBRA, and how it is affected by the recently-enacted health care reform act.  It starts:

“If you’ve recently joined the ranks of the unemployed or are worried that you soon will, you may be wondering if the sweeping new health law will help you. Will you, for instance, still be able to get health insurance under the government-mandated Cobra program? If so, for how long? And at what price?”

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Republicans Block Unemployment Benefits Again

Senate Republicans have once again blocked a much-needed extension of unemployment benefits, ignoring the needs of millions of workers that rely on those benefits.  This time, it is Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn who has single-handedly denied workers benefits.  From the New York Times: “As a result, some people who have been out of work for more than six months will at least temporarily lose benefits. Health insurance subsidies for the jobless will also expire.”

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Obama Signs Bill Temporarily Extending COBRA, Unemployment Benefits; Longer Extension Being Considered

On March 2, President Obama signed the Temporary Extension Act of 2010 (summary here), a bill that will extend the 65 percent premium COBRA subsidy through March 31, 2010, and unemployment assistance benefits through April 5, 2010.  The Senate passed this bill after Republican Senator Jim Bunning finally abandoned his misguided efforts to block it.

On March 10, the Senate passed the Tax Extender Act of 2009, legislation that would extend until December 31, 2010 the 65% premium COBRA subsidies and emergency unemployment insurance benefits.  The bill now has to be reconciled with the version the House passed late last year.

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Republican Senator Blocking Unemployment and COBRA Benefits

Inexplicably, Republican Senator Jim Bunning has held up a much-needed extension of unemployment and COBRA benefits.  Bunning has single-handily blocked a vote on a 30-day extension by being the only senator to oppose a unanimous consent motion to vote on the bill, which was passed earlier by the House. The extended benefits are scheduled to expire today.  Thousands may lose benefits because of Bunning — how many depending on how quickly Democrats can force a vote on the bill.  This callous disregard of the needs of working class Americans is outrageous, as are Senate rules which allow a single Senator to hold up such essential legislation.

The stress of losing a job is hard enough, and has been shown to create adverse health effects, but the least the government can do is provide unemployment benefits in a timely manner.  More coverage here and here.

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President Signs Bill Extending COBRA and Unemployment Benefits

On December 21, 2009, President Obama signed a Defense Appropriations Bill, which also included two-month extensions for unemployment benefits and the 65% COBRA subsidy that was in the stimulus package.   Specifically, the act extended the COBRA premium reduction eligibility period for two months until February 28, 2010, and increased the maximum period for receiving the subsidy for an additional six months (from nine to 15 months). The Department of Labor has this useful fact sheet regarding the COBRA subsidy and its extension.

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Advice for Workers Losing COBRA Subsidy

One part of the President’s stimulus package early this year provided a 65% subsidy for COBRA health insurance benefits.  The subsidy, however, only lasts nine months, so it expiring for many people soon.  Unfortunately, Congress has failed to extend the benefit yet, though it may still do so early next year.  This NY Times article has very useful advice for workers about to lose the subsidized benefits.

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